Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Controversy Over Free Speech For Conservatives Leads This Forum to a Controversy Over the Movie Philomena

Conservatives Horrified by Dissent Over Their Views

One of the more widely praised movies of the holiday season was something called  Philomena, distributed by a company headed by Harvey Weinstein (yes Jewish) which like almost all movies, this author has not seen it and will not see it.  So here is a description of the film by the BBC, a review that is typical of the reaction by the press.

Philomena Synopsis

Falling pregnant as a teenager in Ireland in 1952, Philomena Lee was sent to the convent of Roscrea to be looked after as a “fallen woman”.  When her baby was only a toddler, he was whisked away by the nuns to America for adoption. Philomena spent the next fifty years searching for him in vain.
Then she met Martin Sixsmith, a world-weary journalist as cynical as Philomena was trusting. Together they set off for America on a journey that would not only reveal the extraordinary story of Philomena’s son, but also the powerful bond that grew up between Philomena and Martin – a surprising relationship that was both profoundly moving and very funny.
The film is a bitter-sweet comedy, a compelling narrative of human love and loss, and a heart-breaking story that ultimately celebrates life. 

Nominated for 4 British Independent Film Awards; Best British Independent Film, Best Actress for Judi Dench, Best Actor for Steve Coogan, Best Screenplay for Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope.
Winner of the Best Screenplay award 

 But the movie provoked a rather strong outcry from a critic from the New York Post, supported by a commentator on Town  Here is the gist of the Town Hall summary of the movie.

"Philomena" is yet another movie made by Weinstein's company trashing the Catholic Church, which in this case, attacks "evil nuns" in one of those stories it claims in the opening credits is "based on true events." Which part of this film is based on fact and which part on fiction? Hollywood doesn't dare make the distinctions.

Lee was one of the unwed teenage mothers in Ireland who was taken into the "Magdalene laundries," homes for unwed mothers and pregnant girls operated by nuns. To support these homes, the young women did laundry and other domestic work. Lee gave birth to a son at an abbey in 1952. He was taken away from her at age 3 and adopted by an American couple. Out of shame, she kept this secret from her other two children for 50 years, until she broke her silence in 2004.

This is when the movie's plot kicks in. Lee's daughter recruited the help of a leftist journalist named Martin Sixsmith to help find out what happened to Lee's lost son in America. After some research, it is discovered that he became a closeted gay Republican lawyer to Ronald Reagan and the first George Bush.

Ok fine, nothing really a problem here, just a commentator objecting to a move content and interpreting it as an attack on his church.  But the commentator’s full fury is the result to this response to a critic in the New York Pos by film distributor Harvey Weinstein.

Philomena ad
How Dare Mr. Weinstein Respond to Criticism, How Dare He!

The man whose last controversial movie was "Bully" certainly knows how to behave like one. Just ask New York Post film critic Kyle Smith, who dared to give a thumbs down to Hollywood bigwig Harvey Weinstein's latest anti-Catholic attack film, "Philomena," carefully timed for release during the Christmas season.

Weinstein took out a full-page color attack ad in The New York Times singling out Smith for abuse. It got his attention. "I've never been flogged in the public square, but now I have a rough idea what it's like," Smith responded.

In all capital letters, the ad proclaimed "The New York Times, Los Angeles Times and USA Today all praise 'Philomena' with a 92 percent certified fresh score on Rotten Tomatoes (the film review website). But the New York Post's Kyle Smith has a different opinion. 'Another hateful attack on Catholics.'"

Underneath that was part of a letter from the film's subject, Philomena Lee, who insisted the film "is meant to be a testament to good things and not an attack." She said to Smith: "I forgive you for not taking the time to understand my story."

Okay again.  Mr. Smith the critic wrote about his opinion and in the true spirit of give and take Mr. Weinstein responded, admirably so in our opinion but that is irrelevant.  This is what happens in a country that encourages a free and open forum and discussion.  Apparently Mr. Smith thinks that the press is reserved only for people like him and his ilk, that if someone wants to take out an ad, at their own expense, responding to him that is a terrible thing, an abuse and something up with which he should not have to put.

But horrors upon horrors, the Town Hall sees this as a response to the ad by Mr. Weinstein!

Dissent is not welcome.

Really, this sums up the right wing attitudes about open discussion.  The complaint is that Mr. Weinstein was intolerant of dissent.  No, he just replied to an attack on him and his film, as is his right.  So the dissent that is not welcome is obviously Mr. Weinstein’s, Town Hall is horrified that he would dare respond with facts to the attack on his film and himself. 

As for Mr. Weinstein’s supposedly anti-catholic bias, there is this.

HARVEY WEINSTEIN, the film producer and co-chairman of The Weinstein Company, responds by email to an accusation by BRENT BOZELL, the conservative activist and president of the Media Research Center, that Weinstein makes “anti-Catholic” movies: “My mother and my father raised my brother Bob and me to be fair and open-minded people and would never allow any prejudices in their home. You claimed that I look for opportunities to go after Catholics in a way that I would never do to Muslims when in fact my films examine many faiths and my selection of them relates only to good storytelling. … ‘Philomena’ isn’t a film about hating the Catholic Church. The real Philomena Lee is still a Catholic and has forgiven the church and nuns that took her son away from her. As Judi Dench says in the film, it’s about forgiveness and love, not about hatred.

“The film’s social commentary shouldn’t be confused with hatred. The films I am most proud of have remarked in some way on the conditions that society forces on the individual. … One of the great highlights of my life was when the pope invited me to a screening at the Vatican for a movie I worked on called ‘Life is Beautiful.’ Unfortunately we had a number of conflicts with the company at that time and I had to ask Roberto Benigni to represent all of us. … The Pope even issued a statement of how much he loved the film. I still keep in touch with the people in the Vatican so I would be delighted to show ‘Philomena’ to them. I will share your comments about my being anti-Catholicism and I will let a higher authority decide that one. … Wishing you and your family a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, Harvey Weinstein.”

Case closed, game, set and match to Mr. Weinstein.  And one waits, probably in vain, for Sarah Palin, Ted Cruz and Bobby Jindal to rush to defend the right of Mr. Weinstein to reply to criticism.

Oh, and Mr. Smith’s reply in all of this is to attack a non-combatant, Philomena Lee whose life story is the basis for the film and who is apparently just trying to do the right thing.  But doing the right thing is not something Mr. Smith can apparently abide, and attacking a civilian who really cannot defend herself is apparently a pretty easy, albeit cowardly act. 

Finally, movies involve thousands of people in the production, distribution and showing of a film.  So what about the writers, producers, actors, production personnel, distributors, theaters and everyone else that is associated with bringing this film to the public.  Are they all anti-Catholic, are they all attacking the nuns, are they all people who joined together in a massive conspiracy to hate?   So why single out Mr. Weinstein?  Hm, Weinstein, what kind of name is that, obviously not American, obviously not the name of a true patriot.
One could charge that the NY Post critic and the Town Hall site chose to attack Mr. Weinstein because of his religion, and even though there is absolutely no evidence or indication that is the situation, if one were to adopt the reasoning and rational of Mr. Smith and Town Hall it would be easy to make that charge.

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